Refreshing the ACARS Approach: An Introduction to Internet Protocol Suite (IPS)


Due to its pivotal role in aviation operations and communications, the Connected Aviation Today team has covered the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) at length. From its evolution, to misconceptions about it, to its future, ACARS continues to be one of the most important communication protocols in the aviation industry.

After 40 years of continued adaptation, changes are on the horizon for ACARS to keep pace with industry innovation and demand. One key element is the modernization of communication protocols and the industry has its sights set on the creation of the Internet Protocol Suite (IPS). “IPS is an aviation industry initiative to develop a mobile, IP-based, aviation-based satellite communication capabilities that delivers the benefits of IP (e.g. capacity, speed, protocol flexibility, etc.) but is tailored to meet aviation’s unique safety services requirements,” explained Dan Pendergast, Marketing Director at Collins Aerospace. “The end goal is to use a purely internet-based technology customized for aviation safety service communication that can also function across existing networks.”

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In a recent conversation with Connected Aviation Today, Pendergast went on to explain what requirements need to be met to make the use of IPS across the aviation industry a reality. Pendergast stated that the Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) has initiated standards-related activities that include all parts of the aviation ecosystem such as manufacturers, equipment providers, and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to get the initiative off the ground.

To properly implement IPS capabilities, there are three crucial network requirements according to Pendergast:

  • Interoperability – “If an aircraft has this IPS capability, it still has to be interoperable in parts of the world where ANSPs haven’t shifted to this technology yet. It’s important for this technology to easily accommodate legacy systems during the transition phase to IPS.”
  • Media Independence – “IPS must be able to support any kind of medium, or communication link it interacts with, including satellite, AeroMACS (Aeronautical Mobile Aircraft Communication System), VHF, and high frequency data links.”
  • Strong Security – “Because of growing concerns around cyberthreats, this approach must be secure and encrypted across all communications links including air-to-ground and ground-to-ground. Potential service providers will have to adhere to stringent security requirements to enable continued secure connectivity as aircraft traverse across IPS networks that are operated by different service providers.”

“IPS is a movement by industry to get ahead of technology. The goal is to tackle some existing challenges in aviation communication from the ground up and develop the standards from the start,” said Pendergast. We’re very excited to see the progress of IPS in coming years and look forward to how it will continue to improve safety and efficiency across the aviation community.